Moxibustion and Its Uses

Moxibustion is a technique used within Traditional Chinese Medicine that consists of the burning or smoldering of moxa — an herb commonly known as mugwort — over the surface of the skin. It’s employed in the treatment of a variety of ailments including frozen shoulder, pain caused by arthritis (such as knee and joint pain), digestive problems and even breech pregnancies.

The practice is something of a cross between acupuncture and herbalism; the burning of moxa is done over specific areas that can coincide, though don’t always, with acupuncture points known as meridians.

Studies have shown that moxibustion helps treat arthritic knees. Though the scientific reasons for its effectiveness remain unknown moxibustion has been used successfully as a treatment for reducing pain and improving mobility. As with acupuncture, Western medicine has difficulty providing objective measurements for the effectiveness of moxibustion. Nonetheless, it’s almost undisputed that the practice is a useful therapy for reducing and managing joint pain.

Moxibustion has been shown to be effective in turning breech babies (a breech baby is positioned backwards, with its butt facing towards the vaginal canal rather than its head. It occurs in only 3-4% of pregnancies at the time of labor and Western medicine generally approaches breech births by performing a c-section on the mother.

Women whose minds are set on having a natural birth may think that the occurrence of a breech baby limits their options. Moxibustion is thought to help release two pregnancy hormones — placental estrogen and prostaglandins – that help to stimulate the baby to turn. The treatment is performed a little differently in these cases, with moxa sticks burnt close to the woman’s toes from one to ten times per day.

Acupuncture has been a boon for those suffering from frozen shoulder; moxibustion can also be a helpful treatment. While acupuncture and moxibustion can reduce pain and assist in regaining a full range of motion, you should still consult your doctor and combine the treatments with stretches and other exercises.

Read more about how we use moxibustion at Rivertown Acupuncture.

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